Heavily-armed Al-Shabaab fighters on Monday stormed a military base in southern Somalia, leaving several dead, a local army official and witnesses said.
Military sources in the region said the attack targeted the Baar Sanguni military base, around 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of the regional capital Kismayo.
The attackers rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a checkpoint before gunmen attacked the base, exchanging gunfire with soldiers for over an hour.
“Al-Shabaab terrorists attacked Baar Sanguni military base early this morning and there was heavy fighting. The Somali armed forces have repelled the attackers but there were casualties inflicted on the both sides during the armed confrontation,” Mohamed Bile, a military commander in a nearby village said by phone.
“We don’t have the exact number of the dead so far but there it could be more than 10,” he added.
Several witnesses in nearby villages reported a heavy blast followed by sustained gunfire.
The al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab claimed in a statement they had killed 27 soldiers in the attack on a base “which the Americans built for the apostate militias.”
“We killed 27 soldiers and took the base. Some soldiers fled into the jungles,” the group’s spokesperson Abdiasis Abu Musab said.
The attack comes a day after the Somali National Army said it destroyed Shabaab “networks” in the lower Shabelle area of the south and captured some of the militants.
Al-Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu for over a decade.
Despite losing towns and territory in recent years the group continues to carry out regular bombings and armed raids on government, security and civilian targets in the capital and elsewhere.
In June, five Kenyan paramilitary police officers were killed after their vehicle struck a landmine in Liboi, close to the Somali border, an attack similar to those claimed by al-Shabaab in recent months.
The militants attacked an African Union military camp south of Mogadishu in April, killing peacekeepers from Uganda who were stationed there.
With reporting from AFP